Two types of discharges may be available for you in Canada if you have been found guilty of a criminal offence: absolute discharge and conditional release. A discharge is considered to be an extraordinary sentencing measure that allows the accused individuals to prevent a criminal conviction, whether or not they have been found guilty or they have pled guilty to an offence.
A conditional discharge requires you to admit to the facts of an offence and that you will fully comply with specific conditions for a specified period. The requirements related to the conditional discharge may range between 6 months and two years, depending on the nature of the offence committed by you.
Some of the conditions accompanied by conditional discharges may include:
- Keeping peace and displaying good behaviour
- Remaining within the court’s jurisdiction
- Performing community service
- Reporting to a probation officer
- And, sometimes, a firearm or weapon prohibition
If you fully comply with the conditions ordered by the court of law for a specific period, you’ll be permanently discharged from the offence. If you fail to obey the court’s terms, you can get a new criminal charge for breaching probation period or for failing to obey the court order.
Most importantly, failing to do so can result in revocation of your conditional discharge, a conviction of the original offence, receiving a criminal record, and even a harsher penalty or sentence.
Who Can Get A Conditional Discharge?
As conditional discharge is considered to be an extraordinary or particular sentencing measure, it can only be awarded in case of specific or eligible offences. It can also be granted in case the judge hearing the application deems that the requested discharge is in yours as well in the best interests of the public.
If you have been charged with an offence carrying a minimum sentence as a result of a conviction, then you won’t be eligible for a conditional discharge. For example, some sexual assaults and drug felonies involving minors result in minimum 1-year imprisonment after successful conviction. For such offences, there won’t be any discharge available for the accused. Moreover, specific crimes, including robbery or murder in which a sentence exceeds a maximum of 14-year imprisonment, are not eligible for a conditional discharge.
How To Get A Conditional Discharge
To receive a conditional discharge, first of all, you’ll have to be convicted for an eligible offence or plead guilty to an eligible offence. After entering a plea or finding of guilt, you’ll have to appear before an honourable judge and present a considerable number of submissions in support of your discharge.
The primary objective of such submissions is to demonstrate that conditional discharge is in yours as well in the best interests of the public. Some of the key points that usually addressed while applying for a conditional discharge are given below:
- The seriousness of the offence; the more severe or harmful the crime is, the more difficult it will be to get a discharge
- The prevalence of offence in a society; in case the crime is increasingly prevalent in the community, it may result in a harsher sentence to deter further similar crimes and decrease the likelihood of a possible discharge
- Gaining something personally from the offence; if you happened to take advantage of other individuals for a personal gain while committing the crime, it would result in a reduction in the likelihood of a potential discharge
- The value of property damaged during the offence; the more valuable the property damaged, the more serious the crime is considered
Generally, the court of law will be less inclined to grant you a conditional discharge if you are found to be convicted of a crime recently. On the other hand, the court of law will be more willing to give you a conditional discharge if you have good behaviour, reputation, and have no prior criminal record.